UNC Suspends Honor Court Case Against Alleged Sexual Abuse Survivor
Today, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has suspended the Honor Court case against Landen Gambil, a UNC sophomore and alleged sexual abuse survivor who faced the possibility of expulsion after being charged with “intimidating” her accused attacker by speaking publicly about her assault.
Gambil had been one of five female students at UNC to file a formal complaint with the Department of Education about the school’s handling of their sexual assault cases. According to Gambill, her subsequent charge by the student-managed Honor Court was in direct retaliation for this complaint.
The charges were brought to the Honor Court by Gambill’s ex-boyfriend, who Gambill has never named publicly, who claimed that Gambill’s continued, public discussion of her abuse had “inimidated” him and created a “hostile environment on campus.” If found guilty, one potential penalty for Gambill could have been expulsion.
“For several weeks, the University has grappled with how best to respond to a public claim of retaliation against the University while maintaining the autonomy and integrity of our Honor Court proceedings and the privacy of the individuals involved,” wrote UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp in an open letter. “Recognizing the potential conflicts that may exist by allowing both processes to continue, we have asked the Student Attorney General to suspend the Honor Court proceeding pending an external review of these allegations of retaliation. The University takes all allegations of retaliation seriously, whether against an individual or an institution, and this allegation is no exception.”
Previously, UNC has maintained that the administration has no say or control in the cases taken by the student-run Honor Court, while stressing that the proceedings were also not a form of retaliation against Gambill whatsoever.
On Monday, however, as Gambill prepared a second complaint against the school for the Honor Court charges, Gambill’s attorney, Henry Clay Turner, said in a letter to Thorp that the UNC student conduct handbook states that the chancellor “remains solely responsible for all matters of student discipline,” up to and including the Honor Court.
“You, Chancellor Thorp, have the authority and the responsibility to immediately dismiss this charge,” Turner wrote.
As the sexual assault scandal at UNC has deepened, the school is now facing two separate and simultaneous investigations by the Department of Education due to their response to incidences of sexual assault, potential under-reporting of sexual assault statistics, and creating a culture of hostility towards sexual assault victims.